October 8, 2001

Emilie Schindler, 93, Dies; Saved Jews in War

RANKFURT, Oct. 7 (AP) She died in a hospital in  Strausberg,  outside Berlin, where she had been since July 21, said  the biographer,  Erika Rosenberg.  The Schindlers, who saved at least 1,200 Jews, were  celebrated in Steven  Spielberg's Oscar-winning film in 1993. Ms. Schindler had contended, though, that the film overlooked  her role in  keeping the Jews alive. "Oskar is the hero and what about  me?" she told  German ARD television in a 1999 interview. "I saved many  Jews, too." According to the Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem, Yad Vashem,  which  gave her the "Righteous Among the Nations" award in 1993, Ms.  Schindler  prevented the Nazis from sending a trainload of 120 nearly  starved Jewish  prisoners to Auschwitz. Oskar Schindler convinced the Nazi SS camp commander that the  emaciated, frostbitten men were needed to work in his  factory. Upon their  arrival, Ms. Schindler nursed them back to health. None of  them ever  worked.

Ms. Schindler, who had lived in Argentina since 1949, came to  Germany this  year saying she wanted to spend her final days here. A  retirement home in  Bavaria accepted her, but she fell ill and was hospitalized  at the  Märkisch-Oderland clinic. She was born in a German-speaking village in today's Czech  Republic, then  part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. She married Mr.  Schindler in 1928  and moved with him to Krakow, Poland, where they ran a  factory later used  to harbor Jewish laborers during World War II. The Schindlers immigrated to Argentina after the war, but Mr.  Schindler  returned to Germany in 1958, leaving his wife behind. Though  they never  saw each other again, they never divorced. Mr. Schindler died  in 1974. They had no children, and for decades, Ms. Schindler lived  alone in  Argentina, subsisting on a state pension until the film  brought her more  attention. She was awarded Argentina's highest honor granted  to foreigners,  the Order of May, in 1995. In her memoir, "Where Light and Shadow Meet," written with Ms.  Rosenberg and published by Norton, Ms. Schindler portrayed  her husband  as a womanizer and as self-serving as he was generous. Her own recollections of scrounging for bread and medicine on  the black  market and begging for food for the Jewish laborers they kept  were detailed  in the book, illustrating her claims that her husband had not  single-handedly  saved their lives. After returning to Germany in July, she donated papers and  other items that  belonged to her husband to a history museum in Bonn. Earlier, she lost a legal battle to obtain a suitcase full of  her husband's papers,  including a list of the Jews who were saved, that a German  couple found in  1999 and gave to the Stuttgarter Zeitung. The paper published  excerpts, then  donated the papers to Yad Vashem. Ms. Schindler is survived by a niece in Germany.   

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